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The failure of art: a brief comic

February 20th, 2009 · post by Edd · 3 Comments

During the recent onslaught on Gaza I was attempting to work on an art project. I found it almost impossible to concentrate on anything though other than the constant barrage of news coming from Gaza about the destruction Israel was wreaking on a largely defenceless population.  The comic was a response, of some sort, to my inability to understand this aggression, how pointless art appears when governments are willing to use such obscene violence to maintain their control.

I know I'm not responsible...
I know I’m not responsible…

But still, I feel an intense amount of guilt nonetheless
But still… I feel an intense amount of guilt nonetheless

I sit in my comfortable flat trying to work, whilst in Gaza...
I sit (in my comfortable flat) trying to work, whilst in Gaza…

And whatever I create...
and whatever I create seems utterly pointless

The images of destruction don't compute...
The images of destruction don’t compute…

All I know is that 800 Palestinians have been slaughtered
All I know is that so far over 800 Palestinians have been slaughtered

Perhaps if I'd fought the cops
Perhaps if I’d fought the cops I’d feel less useless. But I doubt it.

This crippling sadness isn't going anywhere
This crippling sadness isn’t going to disappear


Whoever said that the pen was mightier than the sword, hadn't considered...
Whoever said that the pen was mightier than the sword…

I started this comic on Saturday 11th January, just after the mass demonstrations in London, and other cities across the world. I’m not entirely sure it’s finished. I finally decided I should publish it in some form on February 6th; it took another three weeks of questioning before I decided it had some worth. I think the idea I was trying to express was much more succinctly put by a blog I read called Hannah in Palestine:

  • “I am sad.
    “Deeply sad.
    “A sadness that is somehow scarier than the anger, because the anger is an expression, and the sadness just sits.”

As Last Hours has tried to document over the past couple of months there’s been resistance to Israel’s attacks across the globe; from the student occupations, to blockading Carmel Agrexco and shutting down Brighton’s arms factory EDO/ITT.

I have screenprinted and bound ten copies of the comic for the Brighton Zine Fest. If there are any left afterwards I’ll put them up for sale in the Last Hours shop…

n.b. In this comic, because it was written/ drawn before the end of the conflict has an inaccurate death toll for those who were killed in Gaza. The final figure stood at over 1,300 dead and 5,000 injured.

→ 3 CommentsThis entry belongs to the following categories: News · radical culture

3 responses so far

  • jacky posted:
    Feb 27, 2009 at 2:56 pm. Comment #1

    I had a similar feeling at the time, one that encomposed not only the futility of art, but at times, of nearly everything – all those trivial, quotidien annoyances seemed not just absurd, but obscene. I think it’s compounded as well by a lack of constructive outlet, cue shoe throwing at the israeli embassy… I was in a country without any access to news or anyone who spoke english for the first week and a half of the onslaught, and although I knew something was happening in gaza, i didn’t know what it was, and the feeling of total uselessness was overpowering. A few things to bear in mind, though. I think if you want to continue to make art, write, etc (remember Adorno and his maxim that there can’t be poetry after Auschwitz): there will be future atrocities, and it’s best perhaps to separate the political agency of art, and that of activism or direct action. I don’t personally place the burden of social change too much on art. I try nontheless, and those boundries are continuously blurred, but I try to maintain what I guess could be called a balance to these things: activism on one hand, art on the other, whether it’s politically engaged or not. Loads has been written about this, in the art rags, and with the purported end to post modernism and its avoidance or squeamishness of poltical content in art (in the wider, more commercially available and seen art), you could say we’re gearing up for an epoch that not only encourages politcal engagement in art, but demands it. You know, the situationists were reputedly against art, the reasoning that less time making art and images means more time in ‘real life’, on the streets, organizing, etc. while at the same time they were derving a meagre income from the sale of Asger Jorn’s paintings…

    I’m planning a Gaza comic as well, but the logisitics, in addition to the content, are nightmarish: how does one convey horror of that magnitude without being witness? Luckily I know (if luck is an appropriate word…) some friends who are there, and are in theory going to collaborate. I guess the point of all this is, and i say this in solidarity with you, yes, the dispair you felt is real, as an artist, but if you want to continue as an activist, if you are one, and an artist, maybe think more strategically and realistically about what art can achieve, otherwise it’s too common and easy to drown in a pool of dispair and guilt that taken to its extreme, will make everything we do seem stupid and trivial compared to what is happening in palestine. good luck with future projects – j

  • Artivist posted:
    Feb 27, 2009 at 7:20 pm. Comment #2

    I don’t think I agree with the separation of art and politics. Art both impact and reflects reality. If art is not political it is simply a commodity of the leisure class.

  • Tom Fiction posted:
    Mar 4, 2009 at 12:22 am. Comment #3

    Really nice work Edd!